“It is a test of not only what we see but how we are willing to see and experience through art.” - Bobbie Moline-Kramer
Upon meeting Bobbie Moline-Kramer , I was immediately taken by her effervescent alluring yet dynamic nature. Here is a woman who clearly has lived a fruitful, adventurous life; the magnitude of a true artistry, with an illuminating fire, which is constantly creating. Her presence is one of confidence and grace, long gray locks with the smallest tattoo of a star on the corner of her eye. She is beautiful both aesthetically & internally.
Her latest series “As Above As Below,” which spent its last week at Red Pipe Gallery in Chinatown’s beloved Chung King Road is a show based on her studies of old world macaques – the snow monkeys of Japan. “She developed a sense of the Snow Monkeys that she has communicated to us with realism and abstraction.” This theme was the center of her Artist Talk with Peter Frank that took place on March 8th at Red Pipe Gallery. (Abstraction vs. Realism)
“These beings are otherworldly when studied from our human reference.” – Bobbie Moline-Kramer
The show’s title “As Above As Below” references an ancient alchemical text: “That which is Below,” it cryptically announces, “corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” Moline-Kramer explains it thusly: “Whatever happens on any level of reality—physical, emotional, or mental—also happens on every other level.” Reflecting Moline-Kramer’s process-heavy procedure for creating her current body of work, the text demonstrates a divinatory concept intermingled with a Zen like Buddhist philosophy.
Bobbie Moline-Kramer draws out the most visceral elements of her animals. Eyes that present such human emotion that lack humanity gaze outwardly which in turn puts you in almost a trance like state while staring at each piece yearning to understand her subject better. A cathartic experience, surreal, peaceful and healing came through using the monkey’s hands and eyes as humanistic characteristics that the viewer can relate to. These relatable physiognomies of the monkey’s hands and eyes are the very same features men and women tend to visually linger on when we physically attracted to one another, our chemistry. Although in the monkey world, the female is the dominant presence. Other works featured are printed on glass and backlit; abstracted landscapes glow out like a past life lived in harmony with the elements of nature, a tribal existence.
Venturing to Japan to capture these snow monkeys in their natural habitat was part of a personal and spiritual journey that Bobbie took with her late husband. A time that is very special which is enriched by pieces created while in the freezing winter of Kyoto, Japan. Working on this series, Bobbie made repeated treks to “Monkey Mountain” she explains the process capturing these creatures on their turf.
“They have a society that’s slips into other dimensions.” – Bobbie Moline-Kramer
The camera acted as a protective shield between the monkey and the artist, which seemed to be a mutual understanding. Bobbie sketched them on her iPad, which was again some form of silent agreement. The monkeys allowed her into their world, posing still at times. Abstract and subtle their aura’s and attitude’s peek out through their expressions of fragility, stoicism, arrogance and wisdom.
In her studio Bobbie has well over 200-covered figure drawings that have been repeatedly painted on until satisfied, then put away in a drawer, until she achieves that spark of integrated concept and canvas. A convoluted process that may contain up to six to seven layers of drawings washes of gesso with new drawings interposed and then additional layers of gesso applied on architecture paper. Leaving them to hang for days until she saw something that could not be unseen. Occasionally, placing two pieces of paper together, pulling them apart and finding things within the two. The final composition is a select relationship between background and Snow Monkey. The land and those that feed off of it, preserve it. Some of these works are printed directly onto glass and backlit with new adjustable LED lighting panel. This is a first for this technology.
In her artist talk earlier this month, Bobbie made an interesting correlation about how the monkey was once perceived as a god to then slowly become one of a jester or clown. The downfall of the ideology was intriguing to hear considering that they are the closest species to human beings.
The Interview & First Meeting…
“A highly structured love story” – Bobbie Moline-Kramer
BMK: I am used to drawing. I draw all the time. I started with a blank sheet of paper, did a live drawing on it took it home added more gesso to it. Did another live drawing on it, added more gesso again. Some of these may have six to seven layers. And what you are seeing underneath are bits and pieces of the life drawing. The hands were done later. Once I am finished with the background, satisfied with it and it pleases me, they are stored in a drawer for years until I see something in them. And I maybe have 300 of them.
BMK: Right now, because I don’t see anything in them.
In this series, “As Above So Below,” you went to Japan while it was freezing cold, how did you feel spending such a lengthy time there?
BMK: I went to Kyoto, Japan, which is like “Oh my God.” I’ve never felt that much at home, even in Paris. It was just instantaneous.
You became fascinated with the macques – the snow monkeys, making repeated trips to “Monkey Mountain.” I immediately think the film, “Planet Of the Apes,” looking at these pieces; they all share a haunting, spiritual and conceptual quality. How was it spending time on their mountain?
BMK: They own THAT Mountain and make it very clear. This series isn’t so much for general consumption or for print or anything else. This was the last trip my husband and I took before he passed. So it has many meanings. They (the monkeys) for whatever reason, gravitated to him, it was really strange. He would sit on the park bench and there would be five or six that would come over there and just sit next to him. I was like, okay.
And they would just hang out? They were sweet?
BMK: They would just hang out. Sweet? Well…(she starts to chuckle) Noooo, they have their own society, they were tolerant. You’re not allowed to feed them outside, if you want to feed them, you have to go in the cage.
What is the paper that you use?
BMK: This is archival and architects for drawing plans use it, so it has a slight coating on it so it insures its not going to bleed through with the gesso. But it’s very stable.
So it's gesso, drawings, etc...?
BMK: Its powdered graphite, its pencil, it is you name it…
What do you start with?
BMK: I start with pencil; I use mineral spirits to smear the line. I am only interested in the line and once I find the line and I like, it develops from there. Then it gets re-gessod. More drawings are put on it. More smearing. Regessod and in between I find something… see and that’s powdered graphite (pointing to her painting.) If I find something that I think is fun, I have no investment in them, none. It’s just playing. Oh and that has silver ink on it too by the way.
It’s true you have to see these in person. As I was reading the background and looking at the images, they seemed very true to the ancient Japanese rice paper drawings. Hauntingly beautiful and the title “As Above So Below resonated so much with me, I thought of Yin & Yang, and the balance between everything.
BMK: That is a very, very old saying. They don’t even know where it came from, they think the Greeks. It basically means, “YOU CAN REVERSE IT, IT DOESN’T MATTER.” One equals the other. And what you put below is what you get on top. So for me it just seemed like perfect.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Do you a practice any particular thing?
BMK: I’m Buddhist. It calms me down.
Me too. I felt that in the title, a spiritual connection and choosing to showcase the monkey’s eyes, hands and mouth.
BMK: I did them to show portraits of emotions.
How old were they?
BMK: He is about 4 months old. He’s a baby. This one is much older, this one is the one, they really have the whole society is based on age, well male dominance of course, but among the females, the society is really run by them. And that’s based on age. So the older females have more power.
In a room of three females, this last statement in of itself sparked laughter and discussion.
BMK: You see the first thing, as a child is eyes, that is how you read someone. And that’s exactly why I decided to do the eyes because that’s how you reward them.
There is a lot of emotion behind them, especially if you have a connection to animals and if you have the view that we are all one. The framing in shadowboxes is beautiful and the soundtrack. Does each of them have their own piece of music or is it a whole?
BMK Each one has it’s own sound. Yeah he went crazy.(Laughs) (He is as in Geoff Levin, composer, songwriter and producer.)
And these are the ones with the backlight.
BMK: Yes, this is brand new technology, state of the art, the LED inside them 3/4inch of thick. These are two of the environments that the monkeys were in.
You were completely immersed in snow?
BMK: Oh Yeah. I can’t think of any other place that gets colder and I lived in Rochester, Minnesota.
Who did the printing?
BMK: Digital Fusion. These are prints on glass. This one they had to do seven times before they captured one.What happens is if you hold it, it gets lighter, so you can actually control the amount of light that comes through.
It’s like mood lighting too?
BMK: (with conviction) Yes mam.
This one here, this one got me.
BMK: Well that’s your teenager. This is watercolor paper. The surface is not fragile. You can feel the ridges of the paint. Only you can touch this.
I feel bad. I never want to touch anyone’s art. I yell at people that do. (A few seconds later, I lightly graze it) It feels like old book paper. The expression on this monkey’s face is so stoic why is he giving off such attitude?
BMK: Well, I offered him a peanut and he got it right away. We smell to them, so they don’t want to touch us. So when I offered him the peanut, he literally had to touch my hand to get the nut and this is the look I got.
So I how did you get their expressions so realistic, by photographing them?
BMK: I drew on site.
BMK: I’m fast; I did commercial art for 22 years. I’m fast and also I like to draw, so I had my iPad and I drew on it with my finger so that’s how I got it.
I feel so analogue… I'm surprised I'm not here with a tape recorder.
BMK: I got the major things I wanted to capture. Like I got that look from him, you know the look when someone just annoys the shit out of you.
The eyes? Do you just remember?
BK: No, I drew them.
How long were you there for?
BK: We were there for two and a half months in 2012. My husband passed in august of 2013.
How long were you married?
BK: 32 years.
(I chose to leave out most of this conversation to focus on the series itself.)
You produced something beautiful from this trip.
BMK: I did. I took photographs but I didn’t use them to draw, I used them because I couldn’t believe their color, they have different colors of fur. Like he had grayish/ white fur but they have screaming red faces and green eyes. And we were like how is that possible? They are the most amazing looking creatures.
This is very human.
BMK: They are very human.
So these are all the prints?
BMK: The originals can’t be replicated have prints accompanying them. The prints are a limited edition of seven. The framing and the corners of each print are perfection.
If someone wanted one smaller or another one you wouldn’t print more?
BMK: These are done. Right now I am working on spring and summer, this is fall.
“I don’t believe in abstraction. The active relationship painting as activity and making the picture as the goal, you bring your own sea of stuff into it and that colors everything.” - Bobbie Moline-Kramer
The conceptual aspect within being an abstract work, blended with a surrealist aspect was discussed at an artist talk with Peter Frank earlier in March. The 90-minute discussion, which will be up on YouTube soon, covered abstraction vs. realism, humanistic & concrete.
Bobbie discussed working with one thought, like a daily mantra, not thinking while she creates, detached to the outcome of the piece. “ If you stop and think about the process, and say to yourself ‘are these good?” It becomes like automatic painting, such as automatic writing, the activity itself leads you into an unknown direction or idea, and you just stop when you feel like stopping. She doesn’t overthink her process, she plays within it. There isn’t an underlying intention behind it. This is chance,” says Moline-Kramer. “My work is not contrived forward. The backgrounds are conceived separately and for the first time in my life,” the photorealistic painter notes, “I cannot duplicate my own work.”
The series, specifically the eight pieces is accompanied with original score conceived by Oscar and Emmy nominated composer and musician Geoff Levin. Each work of art has an adding auditory experience alongside the visual with which to perceive the pieces.
“A departure from her previous series ‘All That Remains’ and ‘Face to Face.’ ‘All That Remains’ (2009 – 2010) is a mixed media body of work on various surfaces conceived as an extended pictorial requiem or memento mori to treasured family members and finally, her mixed media works on paper and on wood. Face To Face (2004-2006) explored emotional spectrums. “As Above So Below” begun in 2010. “This last ongoing study is the culmination of the artist’s prior involvements naturalistically depicting forms, figures and space. Consisting of intermixed signifiers of gestural abstraction and super-realism overlaid on either wood or on paper.” – Dominique Nahas
Bobbie Moline-Kramer, famed photorealist / commercial artist departs from decades of hyperrealism, biomedical illustration and pre-med education. The professor at Cal State LB, former stewardess (back in the early 70s) and commune living & loving hippie invited us into her home/studio for an inside look of her life and the things she loves. She made us some healthy home cooked acutramon and gave us a tour of her home, the details of the craftsmanship built and engineered by her late husband. She took us into her “splatter room,” showed us previous works, what she will be showing in her upcoming exhibit in Dallas. The collection of antique furniture and vintage record player and a drawer full of untapped canvas yet to be used. A very special woman who truly embodies the spirit of creative freedom, an absolute honor to meet and pleasure to write about. Thank you to Heidi Johnson & Hijinx PR & Artist Management and Mat Gleason from Red Pipe Gallery and Coagula Curatorial Gallery for inviting me to do this story.
After its exclusive launch at Red Pipe, Moline-Kramer’s exhibit will be traveling through 2016 to multiple museums and institutions around the country, MSC Reynolds Gallery, June 14, thru September 13, 2015, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas.
Born in Fort Madison, Iowa in 1946, Bobbie Moline-Kramer has followed the creative impulse since childhood. She attended San Diego State and the Art Center before receiving her B.A. in illustration from California State University, Long Beach in 1983. After completing her studies, Moline-Kramer studied with the renowned John Baldessari and Dick Oden, and her talent continued to flourish. Moline-Kramer is a member of the California Art Club, the Society of Illustrators of New York, and the past President of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.
Moline-Kramer is a premiere realist painter. Drawing inspiration from the Impressionists and the Dutch Masters, she paints with technique, skill and a mastery of light and shadow. Her work has continued to evolve as her search for the pure expression of realism has caused her to strip away unnecessary elements, resulting in abstract works whose inspiration lay in realism and exacting authenticity.